This recording of Beethoven's 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli in C major, Op. 120, by British pianist Imogen Cooper was a strong seller when it appeared in March 2019, and there appear to be several reasons why. One is the introduction of the program with the Bagatelles, Op. 119, which are not so often heard and make a fine lead-in. Cooper almost runs the bagatelles together, which one might question: each one is a distinct entity, and playing them as Cooper does loses the strangeness of, say, the 15-second Allegramente bagatelle. But Cooper seems to be asserting the unity of the set, which is reasonable even though Beethoven wrote the works at different times; some are early works, and some were newly composed for publication in 1822. She captures a certain reminiscent quality in these fascinating little works. In the Diabelli Variations themselves, Cooper avoids an intimate or intellectual reading, or a humor-oriented one, all of which are abundant, in favor of a big, muscular approach that emphasizes the work's virtuoso aspect. The fast variations are brilliant and powerful, the slow ones mystical and shadowy. It's a crowd-pleasing approach, and Cooper nails the shift into the final slow variations, which really are profound. The spacious acoustic of the Snape Maltings concert hall accords well with Cooper's approach in the hands of Chandos' engineers. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Eleven Bagatelles, Op. 119 for Piano|
|Thirty-three Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120 in C major for Piano|